Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President emphasized that we need to do everything we can to strengthen economic growth and job creation":

The Ledes

Saturday, October 3, 2015.

New York Times: "A United States airstrike appears to have badly damaged the hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the Afghan city of Kunduz early Saturday, killing at least three people and wounding dozens, including members of the hospital staff. The United States military, in a statement, confirmed the 2:15 a.m. airstrike, saying it had been targeting individuals 'who were threatening the force' and that 'there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.'” ...

... CW: No, people you killed or injured are not "collateral damage." They're people, dead or barely alive. Own up to what you do in words, not in insulting euphamisms. ...

     ... Guardian Update: "A US airstrike appears to have hit a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in the Afghan city of Kunduz, killing nine staff members and injuring up to 37 people." CW: So we're now killing genuine heroes. What a catastrophe.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, October 2, 2015.

Washington Post: "Russian warplanes have struck targets deep inside the Islamic State’s heartland province of Raqqa for the first time, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday."

AP: "U.S. hiring slowed sharply in September, and job gains for July and August were lower than previously thought, a sour note for a labor market that had been steadily improving. The Labor Department says employers added just 142,000 jobs in September, depressed by job cuts by manufacturers and oil drillers."

Weather Channel: "While Joaquin may go down as one of the more destructive hurricanes on record in the central Bahamas, the odds of the U.S. mainland seeing its first landfalling hurricane in 15 months are now very low as the forecast track continues to trend farther to the east."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post [Sept. 11]: "Aggressive treatment of high blood pressure can sharply cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths in people 50 and older, according to a landmark federal study released Friday that urges doctors to bring their patients’ blood pressure well below the commonly recommended target. The new research advises people with high blood pressure to keep their “systolic” pressure — the top number in the reading that health-care providers routinely tell patients — at 120 or below.

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

White House Live Video
October 2

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

3:00 pm ET: White House celebration of Filipino American History Month

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.


One More Reason Not to Let Jeff Bezos into Your House. Bloomberg: "Amazon.com Inc. will stop selling media-streaming devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily compatible with its video service, the latest example of the company using its clout to promote products that fit with its own retailing strategy.The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast since those devices don’t 'interact well' with Prime Video." ...

... Karl Bode of Tech Dirt: "Amusingly, Amazon unloads what has to be one of the larger piles of ambiguous bullshit in defense of an anti-competitive position seen in some time: "Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,' Amazon said in [an] e-mail [to sellers]. 'It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.'" Hilarious. Except it's up to developers to embed Chromecast support into their services and apps, and both Google and Apple publish open software development kits that allows any application to be utilized on both devices. In other words, it's Amazon's choice that Chromecast and Apple TV won't play nicely with Amazon Prime Instant Streaming. It has nothing to do with the devices not 'interacting well' with Amazon's services." ...

... Alison Griswold of Slate: "It will be interesting to see whether Amazon’s move with regard to streaming content raises any antitrust flags. Generally speaking, a company has breached antitrust laws when it has a monopoly and uses that monopoly to stifle competition."

Congratulations, Aliens! You are no longer in violation of U.S. copyright law:

... Our Long National Nightmare Is Over. Los Angeles Times: "In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, [a federal] judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the 'Happy Birthday To You' song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright.... Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song."

When the posh British PM David Cameron was a lad, he fucked a dead pig. The antics of our own Aqua Buddha Boy pale by comparison.

New York Times: "It was a night of firsts, and a night for establishment cable at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday. Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best lead actress on a drama series, for her role as a defense lawyer on ABC’s 'How to Get Away With Murder'; Jon Hamm won his first Emmy after seven previous nominations for his role as the tortured Don Draper on 'Mad Men'; and HBO, led by victories for the comedy 'Veep,' the drama 'Game of Thrones' and a four-part limited series, 'Olive Kitteridge,' had a triumphant showing, with 14 victories, including best drama and outstanding comedy series."


Washington Post: "When Pope Francis arrives in Washington this week for the start of a six-day visit to the United States, he might find at least one local spot that reminds him of home. That’s Brookland, a neighborhood in Northeast Washington so chockablock with Catholic institutions that it has been called 'Little Rome.'”

New York Times: "When the comedian Steve Rannazzisi has explained his success, which includes seven seasons starring on a popular TV show, 'The League,' and a one-hour special this Saturday on Comedy Central, he has frequently attributed it to decisions he made after narrowly escaping the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.... Confronted this week, though, with evidence that undermined his account, Mr. Rannazzisi, after a day of deliberation, acknowledged on Tuesday that his account was fiction."

Washington Post (Sept. 15): "King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain ... arrive in Washington this week for their first official visit.... The couple will meet with President Obama and Senate leaders on Tuesday (which happens to be the queen’s 43rd birthday), open an American-Spanish scientific conference at Georgetown University [where Felipe attended grad school], meet with American chief executives who do business in Spain, and head to Florida to celebrate the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine."

Perfect! Guardian: "Arnold Schwarzenegger is to replace Donald Trump as the host of the NBC reality show Celebrity Apprentice, the network has announced."

New York Times: "For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a new subway stop [in Manhattan] is open for business.... The extended subway line is a descendant of the train lines that ran along 11th Avenue from the mid-1800s until 1941." The stop is an extension of the No. 7 line. Exits are at 34th St. & 11th Ave.:



MoDo goes to Paris to check out Google's Google's Cultural Institute, which is on a mission to "digitally replicate and curate all art and culture on earth." CW: The Times should stop giving Dowd these difficult war-correspondenty assignments. Why isn't she in New York, checking out the runways during Fashion Week?

The President Awards the National Medals of the Arts and Humanities:

Washington Post: "New images of Pluto show the amazing diversity of" the planet's landscape. "Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team, added that the surface was 'every bit as complex as that of Mars,' with jumbled mountains, nitrogen ice flows, and possible dunes." Includes slideshow.

Wowza! New York Times: "Acting on a tip from spelunkers two years ago, scientists in South Africa discovered what the cavers had only dimly glimpsed through a crack in a limestone wall deep in the Rising Star cave: lots and lots of old bones. The remains covered the earthen floor beyond the narrow opening. This was, the scientists concluded, a large, dark chamber for the dead of a previously unidentified species of the early human lineage — Homo naledi. The new hominin species was announced on Thursday by an international team of more than 60 scientists led by Lee R. Berger, an American paleoanthropologist who is a professor of human evolution studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The species name, H. naledi, refers to the cave where the bones lay undisturbed for so long; 'naledi' means 'star' in the local Sesotho language." ...

... Here's the Life Sciences report. ...

BBC News (Sept. 9): "Cheering crowds have greeted the Queen in Edinburgh on the day she becomes Britain's longest reigning monarch. Bad weather delayed her arrival at Waverley Station, but the 89-year-old Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have now set off on the new Borders Railway. The Queen will have reigned for 63 years and seven months - calculated at 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes at about 17:30 BST." Elizabeth exceeds the reign of her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria. CW: Could be a good time to abdicate in favor of the awkward kid who's been in training for the top job for 66 years.

The Druid News. Washington Post: "Scientists working with the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project have discovered evidence of a massive henge just two miles away.... The 100-odd stones, which were discovered using ground-penetrating radar technology, sit beneath three feet of earth and are thought to be 4,500 years old -- roughly the same age as the more famous henge down the road. The new find sits beneath a henge known as Durrington Walls, a previously discovered, younger 'superhenge' thought to once be one of the largest settlements in Europe, spanning a space five times larger than Stonehenge. While some of the stones are only known by the depressions they left behind, others are still buried.... Here's a visual reconstruction for scale:

Ken Doctor of Capital New York: "Tribune Publishing will announce Tuesday the termination of highly regarded L.A. Times publisher Austin Beutner...."

Mo Rocca interviews Stephen Colbert for CBS "Sunday Morning."

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The Commentariat -- May 11, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

     The transcript is here.

Why Jim Inhofe Isn't Funny Any More. Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years." ...

... GOP Climate Change Civil War. Coral Davenport of the National Journal: "... deep fissures are emerging between, on one side, a base of ideological voters and lawmakers with strong ties to powerful tea-party groups and super PACs funded by the fossil-fuel industry who see climate change as a false threat concocted by liberals to justify greater government control; and on the other side, a quiet group of moderates, younger voters, and leading conservative intellectuals who fear that if Republicans continue to dismiss or deny climate change, the party will become irrelevant."

Aw, Shucks. Dave Weigel: Jason (Hispanics Are Dumb) Richwine resigned his position at the Heritage Foundation, & evidently Jim DeMint graciously accepted. Plus, Richwine fan Charles (Blacks Are Dumb) Murray reacts: DeMint has no integrity, loyalty or balls. CW: that's not a news flash, Chuckie. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York: the Richwine/Heritage/racist/nativist debacle pretty much assures the passage of immigration reform.

... CW: So is a Not-Totally-Insane wing of the GOP emerging? -- one that rejects the climate-change-as-hoax nonsense & one that sez immigrants are our friends, fer instance? I don't see how moderation of nuttiness & nastiness can happen as long as every Republican member of Congress in every Republican-leaning district is subject to a Tea Party challenge.

Soaking the Poor to Attract the Rich. John Hechinger & Janet Lorin of Bloomberg News: "U.S. colleges ... are using financial aid to lure rich students while shortchanging the poor, forcing those most in need to take on heavy debt, a report found. Almost two-thirds of private institutions require students from families making $30,000 or less annually to pay more than $15,000 a year, according to the report released today by the Washington-based New America Foundation. The research ... undercuts the claims of many wealthy colleges that financial-aid practices make their institutions affordable, said Stephen Burd, the report's author. He singled out schools -- including Boston University and George Washington University -- that appear especially pricey for poor families."

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "A long-simmering dispute over the White House's account of the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, flared up on Friday, with a disclosure of e-mails that show the White House was more deeply involved in revising talking points about the attack than officials have previously acknowledged. The e-mails, which the administration turned over to Congress, show the White House coordinating an intensive process with the State Department, the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and other agencies to obtain the final version of the talking points, used by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, in television appearances after the attack." ...

... Jeremy Holden of Media Matters: "ABC News is buying into right-wing scandal mongering over the tragic September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, with an 'exclusive' report that doesn't stand up to minimal scrutiny, with flaws that are being used by the right to call for a major investigation.... None of this largely rehashed debate disproves what Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified in November: that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups." ...

... Probably You Had No Idea This Would Happen. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The National Republican Congressional Committee is using the debate over Benghazi to raise money." ...

... Here's the original fundraiser flyer, which some draft changes Jamison Foser found. Via Jonathan Bernstein:

Oh, Crap. Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: " The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday. Organizations were singled out because they included the words 'tea party' or 'patriot' in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.... Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice." CW: we are nevah, evah gonna hear the end of this. ...

... For starters, Charles Pierce points us to Michelle Malkin: "Obama IRS admits witch hunt against Tea Party, patriot groups." ...

... Good golly, Miss Malkin, you plumb forgot to mention this. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "The IRS Commissioner at the time was Douglas Shulman, who had been appointed by President George W. Bush." ...

... Ezra Klein: "The problem wasn't that the IRS was skeptical of tea party groups registering as 501(c)4s. It's that it hasn't been skeptical of Organizing for America, Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA and Heritage Action Fund registering as 501(c)4s. The IRS should be treating all these groups equally and appropriately -- which would mean much more harshly."

Texas Injustice. New York Times Editors: "... racial bias in [the Duane Buck death penalty] case reflects a wide and disturbing pattern in death penalty prosecutions in Harris County, Tex., where Mr. Buck was tried. A recent study found that from 1992 to 1999 the county prosecutor was three times as likely to seek the death penalty for blacks in murder cases as they were for whites, and juries were twice as likely to impose capital punishment."

Sarah Mervosh, et al., of the Dallas Morning News: "Federal bomb possession charges against a [West, Texas,] paramedic Friday spurred a new state and local criminal investigation into the deadly fertilizer plant fire and explosion. But authorities said there weren't yet any indications of a connection between the blast and the arrest of a man who responded to it. Bryce Reed, 31, previously told The Dallas Morning News that he assumed radio command of the April 17 incident after the explosion killed his superiors and colleagues. He is now accused of giving a pipe bomb to an unnamed person in nearby Abbott on April 26, the day after he played a prominent role in the memorial service for 12 emergency responders killed in the blast.... [ATF] agents spent hours at the Waco home of [Reed's] in-laws. Meanwhile, West officials for the first time told the state agency that licenses paramedics that Reed was let go two days after the explosion. A reason wasn't given." Via Charles Pierce.

"Sonnet from the GOP." How do we obstruct thee? Andrew Rosenthal counts the ways.

Aw, Shucks. Dave Weigel: Jason (Hispanics Are Dumb) Richwine resigned his position at the Heritage Foundation, & evidently Jim DeMint graciously accepted. Plus, Richwine fan Charles (Blacks Are Dumb) Murray reacts: DeMint has no integrity, loyalty or balls. CW: that's not a news flash, Chuckie. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York: the Richwine/Heritage/racist/nativist debacle pretty much assures the passage of immigration reform.


The Commentariat -- May 10, 2013

Julie Pace of the AP: " President Barack Obama is launching a new effort to rally the public around his hotly disputed health care law, a strategy aimed at shoring up key components of the sweeping federal overhaul and staving off yet another challenge from Republicans. The president will specifically target women and young people, groups that backed him overwhelmingly during his presidential campaigns. During a Mother's Day-themed event at the White House on Friday, Obama will promote the benefits of the law for women, including free cancer screenings and contraceptives, and ask moms to urge their uninsured adult children to sign up for the health insurance 'exchanges' that open this fall."

Zeke Miller of Time: "President Barack Obama's campaign-style, jobs-focused swing through the Texas technology core on Thursday was notable mainly for what it left out -- any plan for putting his proposals into law." CW: okay, pundits say President Obama should publicly promote his agenda even though he can't get Congress to do squat. So when he does that, Miller complains that he doesn't have "a plan for putting his proposals into law." What, exactly, would that plan be? Taking House Republicans hostage & incarcerating a half-dozen GOP Senators? Sounds feasible. ...

... AND what about this, Mr. Miller? Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama announced Thursday an executive order creating three ... manufacturing hubs using $200 million from the budgets of five agencies: the Departments of Defense, Energy and Commerce, and the National Science Foundation and NASA. White House officials said the president would continue to push for Congress to finance the remaining hubs."

Douglas Brinkley interviews Joe Biden for Rolling Stone.

Paul Krugman discusses recent talk about a bond bubble and/or a stock bubble in the manner of Harry Truman's economists: "On the one hand...; on the other hand."

Stupid Republican Tricks, Ctd. -- The "Pay China First Act." Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The House voted Thursday to allow the Treasury to continue to make payments to foreign and domestic federal creditors and Social Security recipients in the event of a stalemate over the government's statutory borrowing limit, digging in for another debt ceiling standoff, which is looming in the fall.... Even if the Treasury could pull off the difficult task of managing incoming taxes and outgoing payments on a daily basis, about 25 percent of the government would have to shut down for lack of money.... Tony Fratto, a Treasury and White House spokesman in the Bush administration..., called the bill 'technically impossible and politically disastrous.'" ...

... Stupid Republican Tricks, Ctd. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The top two Republicans in Congress informed President Obama on Thursday that they will refuse to fulfill their duty under the Affordable Care Act to recommend members of a new board with the power to contain Medicare spending.... In a letter to President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted their original opposition to Obamacare, reiterated their intent to repeal it entirely, and declared that they would not make any appointments to the Independent Payment Advisory Board." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "That Medicare 'raid' [McConnell & Boehner complain of] is the same raid Paul Ryan included in his budget, the budget that actually does destroy Medicare by privatizing it into a crippled voucher system. To save money. Which is the point of the IPAB, reducing Medicare costs. But McConnell and Boehner don't want to reduce Medicare spending by making it more efficient. They want to reduce Medicare spending by privatizing it and making seniors pay for their own damned health care."

Erica Martinson & Darren Goode of Politico: "President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency is in jeopardy after Republicans formed a united front Thursday to deny her a vote in committee. Democrats erupted in frustration at the GOP 'obstructionism' [yes, do put that in quotation marks because a Republican boycott is in no way "real obstructionism."] and vowed to find a way to push Gina McCarthy's nomination through the Environment and Public Works Committee, despite the last-minute Republican boycott of the vote. But even then, McCarthy could still face a filibuster on the Senate floor -- and won't have the 60 votes she needs, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told his Democratic allies Thursday morning. He pleaded with the Senate to finally heed liberals' pleas to change the filibuster rules so that nominees can be confirmed through majority vote." ...

... Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones: "The blockade on McCarthy is even more noteworthy because ... she worked for Mitt Romney back when he was governor of Massachusetts, as well as Connecticut's Republican former Gov. Jodi Rell." CW: Wow! McCarthy was in one of those binders full of women!

Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: the Internet -- which often raises to national prominence local stories of horrible gun deaths -- may trump the NRA. CW: I like Wilkinson's definition of "responsible gun owners":

... many gun owners are not paragons of probity. Some are drunks, drug addicts, wife-beaters, criminals or simply reckless, stupid, irresponsible humans with atrocious judgment. It's anybody's guess, for instance, how many of the one million concealed carry permit holders in Florida are a danger to themselves and others. (Trayvon Martin isn't around to make his guess.)

... AND Wilkinson quotes David Frum on the same:

... guns are easily available to everybody, responsible or not. It's an empty compliment even to refer to "responsible gun owners" - many of them are people who through good luck simply have not had their irresponsibility catch up with them yet."

DIY Guns. Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "Defense Distributed, the Texas-based company specializing in 3-D-printed plastic firearms, took down its downloadable files on Thursday at the request of the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Control Compliance. The company posted a blueprint for the first fully-operational printed plastic handgun, 'The Liberator,' on Monday at its site, DEFCAD; the file was downloaded more than a 100,000 times in its first three days." Also, luckily for you handy do-it-yourselfers, "the takedown notice from the DTCC has its limitations. For one thing, there are already a number of 'mirror' sites that essentially replicate DEFCAD but are not controlled by ... anyone in the United States.... You can also download the plans for the Liberator or various component parts from the Pirate Bay, the notorious Swedish file-sharing index site." CW: where's the NRA's Second Amendment outrage on this? Well, I'd say they're on the government's side, because homemade guns might cut into their sponsors' bottom line.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: FBI Director Robert "Mueller's 12-year tenure under two presidents [link fixed] is facing new scrutiny, months from his longtime plans to step down in September, as hearings begin on Capitol Hill into what happened in Boston and why.... He has always had supporters in both parties in Congress. Now, instead of coasting into retirement, Mr. Mueller will spend the final months answering tough questions about how the bombing suspects slipped away.... He became director on Sept. 4, 2001."

William Finnegan of the New Yorker: "The long-awaited immigration-reform bill written by the haplessly named Gang of Eight in the United States Senate got buried this week, not unexpectedly, by a great mudslide of amendments -- more than three hundred, at last count.... Many were malicious. Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, proposed that anyone who had ever lived illegally in the U.S. be barred for life from U.S. citizenship.... (CW: worth noting -- Cruz is the son of a Cuban immigrant.) Senator Mike Lee ... of Utah would permit undocumented immigrants to remain employed on the condition that they work in low-status, badly paid jobs, specifying 'services performed by cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers, governesses, maids, valets, baby sitters, janitors, laundresses, furnacemen, care-takers, handymen, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs of automobiles for family use.' (A pro-reform group called this the Chauffeur Carve-Out. I like the 'footmen' touch.)" ...

... The Washington Post has a list of the committee rulings -- so far -- on key amendments. ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: the phony think-tank Heritage Foundation hits a speed bump built by Republicans. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Jason Richwine, the coauthor of the conservative Heritage Foundation's controversial study on the supposed $6.3 trillion cost of comprehensive immigration reform, has received much attention and criticism for his 2009 Harvard dissertation that argued there was 'a genetic component' to racial disparities in IQ.... [At a 2008 forum,] he contended that today's nonwhite immigrants are dumber [than earlier European immigrants]. After he made his remarks in 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that 'Richwine's remarks were warmly received on white nationalist blogs.' ... Richard Alba, a sociology professor at the City University of New York and an author of several books on race and assimilation, called Richwine's remarks 'appalling.'" ...

... Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: Oh, and when he's not scribbling for the Heritage Foundation, Richwine writes for the White Supremacist News. ...

... Jamelle Bouie in the Daily Beast: "... people are skeptical when anyone attributes persistent racial difference to genetics. It doesn't help that proponents of the view tend to overlap with the fringes of Western life....There's more than enough information to conclude that if the right wing is attracting racists and white supremacists, it might want to reevaluate its approach to politics." ...

... CW: What's the matter with Harvard? First we have Reinhart & Rogoff, then we have Ferguson, now we have this guy Richwine. (And let's not forget TED CRUZ.) In most major universities, Richwine's dissertation would not be accepted by his major professor, & if the professor was a crackpot who did accept it, the paper would not get past the dissertation committee.

Kayla Webley of Time: "... Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced her first piece of legislation this week, a proposal that would allow students to take out government educational loans at the same rate that big banks pay to borrow from the federal government. Under her Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, for one year, new student borrowers would be able to take out a federally subsidized Stafford loan at 0.75%, compared with the current 3.4% student loan rate.... Her legislation is well-timed as Congress gears up to debate student loan rates, which are set to double on July 1. Unless legislators vote to extend the 3.4% rate for another year, some eight million students will be forced to pay back their loans plus 6.8% in annual interest."

Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog: "Richard Blumenthal is a hero. Mike Lee is a lying extremist," incapable of reading 219 words. Allow Steve to demonstrate.

An excellent piece by Norm Ornstein, in the National Journal, on the limits of presidential power. A sample: President "Clinton once taught Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama a lesson, cutting out jobs in Huntsville, Ala. That worked well enough that Shelby switched parties, joined the Republicans, and became a reliable vote against Clinton. George W. Bush and Karl Rove decided to teach Sen. Jim Jeffords a lesson, punishing dairy interests in Vermont. That worked even better -- he switched to independent status and cost the Republicans their Senate majority. Myths are so much easier than reality."

All Benghazi, All the Time. Julian Pecquet of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came under increased pressure Thursday to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. A day after three State Department whistle-blowers criticized the administration's response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) suggested the Speaker risked becoming 'complicit' in a cover-up if he doesn't create a special panel." ...

... "The Stop Hillary 2016 Campaign." Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "In case you have any lingering doubt about the true agenda of House Republicans in [Wednesday's] Benghazi hearing, check out these numbers*:

  • 15: Number of times President Barack Obama was mentioned during the hearing
  • 71: Number of times fmr. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was mentioned

      If this were still before election day 2012..., those numbers would be reversed -- the president would have been the one getting five times as many mentions as Hillary." ...

... AND, look what Karl Rove has wrought (via Greg Sargent):

... Jonathan Karl of ABC News: "When it became clear last fall that the CIA's now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story. ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack."

... Karl also has an interesting post on an RNC-produced Benghazi attack ad against the President, which Romney nixed because he wanted to "focus on the economy." With video of the ad.

Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "Americans really, really trust Hollywood. They are, however, far more skeptical of Washington, D.C. A new survey on the most trusted people in America finds actors taking the top three spots: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Denzel Washington. The first politician to appear on the list is former President Jimmy Carter, who comes in at number 24." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "Republican lawmakers asked increasingly tough questions today as they held another day of hearings to investigate, in the words of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), 'Hillary Clinton's suspiciously high poll numbers and what can be done to make them lower.'"

Local News

Ian Urbina, et al., of the New York Times: "Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers' compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes.... But Texas has also had the nation's highest number of workplace fatalities -- more than 400 annually -- for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas' more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012. "And a lot of Texans -- including, of course, Rick Perry -- like it that way. ...

... CW: I see a connection between Texans' attitudes toward unnecessary disasters caused by human failings (including & especially, greed) & Tim Egan's paean to Westerners who happily live with impending natural disasters.

AP: "A pivotal vote Thursday in the Minnesota House positioned that state to become the 12th in the country to allow gay marriages and the first in the Midwest to pass such a law out of its Legislature. The 75-59 vote was a critical step for the measure, which would allow same-sex weddings beginning this summer. It's a startling shift in the state, where just six months earlier voters turned back an effort to ban them in the Minnesota Constitution. The state Senate plans to consider the bill Monday and leaders expect it to pass there too. Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign it into law." ...

... AND this, via Kate M.:

News Ledes

Reuters: "A pair of bombs targeting the offices of candidates running in this weekend's election killed three people Friday in northwest Pakistan, the latest attacks in what has been a bloody campaign. At least 130 people have been killed in attacks on candidates and party workers since the beginning of April. The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, saying the country's democracy runs counter to Islam."

Reuters: "A woman was rescued on Friday after spending 17 days trapped under the rubble of a Bangladesh factory building that collapsed on April 24, killing more than 1,000 people, police and military officials said. Bangladeshi television channels broadcast live footage of emergency service workers pulling the woman from the collapsed building, as onlookers burst into cheers."


The Commentariat -- May 9, 2013

** Charles Pierce: "Congress seems on the brink of ceding not only the power to conduct acts of war ... but its clearly designated power to create and conduct a war itself.... Any member of Congress who votes for a permanent [Authorization to Use Military Force] along these lines is acting contrary to the expressed will of the Founders and contrary to the plain text of the Constitution itself. Ditto for any president who acts upon it, and any court that upholds it. Absent an amendment, Congress cannot constitutionally abandon its war powers to another branch of government. Oh, in reality, it can do it, and it has, and it likely will in the future, but it cannot cloak what it does in the Constitution because the Constitution was specifically written to say otherwise." ...

     ... Here's the underlying story, by John Bresnahan of Politico.

Obstructionism 2.0. Rachelle Younglai & Roberta Rampton of Reuters: "The Senate's top Republican on Wednesday came out strongly against President Barack Obama's labor secretary nomination, accusing Thomas Perez of being a crusading ideologue who would bend the laws to advance his agenda. The speech from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests that Republicans will throw up procedural hurdles to prevent Perez from serving as the Obama administration's next labor secretary." Thanks to contributor Diane for the link.

... Obama 2.0. New York Times Editors: "President Obama has picked a former telecommunications lobbyist and campaign fund-raiser to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, raising serious questions about hid 2007 pledge that corporate lobbyists would not finance his campaign or run his administration... [The nominee, Tom Wheeler] was also a big 'bundler' for Mr. Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, which means ... it is almost certain that he raised money from people whose companies he would regulate, creating potential conflicts of interest." ...

... CW: This pick is a career move for Obama. He's going to leave office a young man. He & his wife still have a long future to consider. Some of that future would certainly benefit -- directly or indirectly -- from keeping on the good side of media moguls. (Obama's choosing Mary Jo White to head the S.E.C. was a similar career move.)

Richard Cowan & Thomas Ferraro of Reuters: "A Senate committee on Thursday rejected a Republican proposal [offered by GOP Delayer-in-Chief Chuck Grassley] that would have significantly delayed the legalization of 11 million undocumented residents in the United States as part of a broad immigration bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-6 against the amendment. It was the first major test of a bipartisan bill that is being debated in the Senate." ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: "... Obama has ceded much of the spotlight on immigration to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has been actively trying to sell immigration reform to the conservative base. Among Republicans, and perhaps among Democrats, too, it's possible immigration reform is now more identified with Rubio than with Obama.... If that's so, it's an example of the 'permission structure' at work."

Sarah Kliff & Dan Keating of the Washington Post: "For the first time, the federal government will release the prices that hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. Until now, these charges have been closely held by facilities that see a competitive advantage in shielding their fees from competitors. What the numbers reveal is a health-care system with tremendous, seemingly random variation in the costs of services."

Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "The veteran diplomat who oversaw the response to the deadly attacks on U.S. installations in eastern Libya last year offered a riveting account on Wednesday of that frantic night, as House Republicans sought to use his testimony to bolster their view that the Obama administration tried to shield embarrassing facts about the ordeal. Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, testified before a House committee that he was frustrated when the U.S. military turned down a request to dispatch four Special Operations troops from Tripoli to Benghazi the next morning, saying he felt they were urgently needed to help evacuate Americans." ...

... Jeremy Peters & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "A State Department official on Wednesday offered the first public testimony from an American diplomat who was on the ground in Libya the night last September when the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked. And he said he was later demoted for raising questions about how the attack was handled." CW: Oh. A disgruntled employee. Who coulda guessed? ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Hicks' account was riveting, & the public deserved to hear it. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Was Benghazi mishandled? Maybe. Are there lessons to be learned? Probably. Is there a scandal or a coverup? There's never been any evidence of it, and there still isn't. This is a show that goes on and on without end, but it never delivers a payoff. Issa and his colleagues need to start paying more attention to stuff that actually matters, and give up on the Fox-friendly conspiracy theories that never pan out. Enough's enough." ...

... Steve Benen: according to Darrell Issa & Friends, "This was a hearing so significant, so monumental, that Republican staffers on Capitol Hill felt the need to make movie posters to help promote it. Issa over-promised and under-delivered. The dramatic hearing that Republicans and Fox News hoped to use to bring down the Obama presidency and permanently derail Hillary Clinton's still-unknown ambitions did neither -- there's still no conspiracy; there's still no cover-up; there's still no political scandal.... Enough should be enough at this point, but if recent history is any guide, the next pointless hearing is just around the corner." ...

... Update: Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post tries to pinpoint what we learned from Hicks' testimony.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Lawmakers across Capitol Hill furiously turned their attention on Wednesday to sexual assault in the military, as members scrambled to introduce legislation focused on preventing and better prosecuting attacks, and continued sharp questioning of Air Force leaders about recent events that have underscored the problem." ...

... MEANWHILE, at the NRA. Dyland Stableford of Yahoo! News: "Anti-violence groups are criticizing the NRA for allowing a vendor at its annual conference to display 'the Ex,' a scantily-clad, blood-splattered female shooting-range target. According to Zombie Industries, the company that produces the $89.95 Tactical Bleeding Zombies, the targets are 'life-sized, three-dimensional tactical mannequins that 'bleed' when you shoot them.'" With photo. CW: yes, some spoilsports have no tolerance for encouraging gun-toting he-men to murder their ex-wives & girlfriends.

Holy Moola, Batman! What Happened to He-Said/She-Said Reporting? Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The nation's unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011, according to private-sector and government economists. After two years in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress have fought to a draw over their clashing approaches to job creation and budget deficits, the consensus about the result is clear: Immediate deficit reduction is a drag on full economic recovery."

We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years. There's no business in America that could survive like this. No household in America that could do this. And this government can't do this. -- John Boehner ...

... Josh Barro of Bloomberg News: John Boehner accidentally explains that federal deficit spending is not dangerous. "It's hard to think of better evidence for the sustainability of budget deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the last 60 years.... Boehner doesn't really care about the public debt, as he made clear when he repeatedly supported debt-expanding measures under a Republican president. What Boehner and House Republicans really want are excuses to cut federal spending, particularly on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that support low-income Americans. But those cuts are unpopular, so Republicans frame fiscal debate to make such cuts appear necessary to avoid disaster." Also, the accompanying chart which compares the rate of grown of U.S. public debt & WalMart's debt is illuminating. (WalMart up 5,760 percent since 1987; U.S. public debt up 600 percent.) Barro also explains to 5th-graders some differences between the government & a household. ...

... Paul Krugman on "the dwindling deficit." P.S. Simpson & Bowles (does anybody remember who they are?) are idiots.

Millionaires Party. If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up less than 10% of the country, but it would have a filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, and a man in the White House. If the Millionaires' Party ever gets its act together, watch out. -- Nick Carnes of Duke University

Carnes' research -- and common sense -- shows that the simple fact of being a white-collar millionaire leads to different priorities. It leads to different social circles. It leads to different bills. -- Ezra Klein

Have Cake, Eating It, Too. Steve Benen reiterates the chain of chained CPI events: "1. Congressional Republicans demand that the White House put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 2. President Obama reluctantly agrees to put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 3. Congressional Republicans criticize the chained CPI policy they said they wanted.... What's stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea he doesn't like anyway?" CW: sounds like a plan (perhaps one hatched Way Back When.

Congressional Races

Greg Sargent: "Two new polls show Dem Congressman Ed Markey with a solid lead over GOP challenger Gabriel Gomez: Suffolk University finds him up by 52-35, while WBUR finds him up by 46-38. However: Both polls show that very large chunks of the Massachusetts electorate are not familiar with Gomez, so there's still a long way to go for Markey." ...

Gabriel Gomez home in a Cohasset historic district. Boston Globe photo.... Tax Scammer. Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe: "Republican US Senate nominee Gabriel E. Gomez claimed a $281,500 income tax deduction in 2005 for pledging not to make any visible changes to the facade of his 112-year-old Cohasset home, a concession so valuable that it is classified as a charitable contribution under a federal law designed to protect historic homes. But Gomez and his wife, Sarah, were already barred from making any changes to the exterior of their home under the bylaws of the local Historical Commission, raising the question as to whether their donation -- the price of which is based on the loss of value in their real estate -- had any monetary worth.... Five weeks after the Gomezes claimed the deduction, the Internal Revenue Service listed programs such as this ... as one of its 'Dirty Dozen tax scams.'"

Gail Collins does not seem all that upset about Mark Sanford's election victory, & John Boehner does not seem all that thrilled about it.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States on Thursday expanded its roster of those violating Iran sanctions, blacklisting four Iranian companies and one individual suspected of helping the country enrich nuclear fuel. It also singled out two other companies.... [Wednesday] the Senate introduced legislation that could effectively deny the Iran government access to an estimated $100 billion worth of its own money parked in overseas banks...."

AP: "A 72-foot-long, high-tech catamaran sailboat capsized Thursday in San Francisco Bay while practicing for the America's Cup races this summer, killing an Olympic gold medalist from England and injuring another sailor, authorities said. Artemis Racing said Andrew 'Bart' Simpson died after the capsized boat's platform trapped him underwater for about 10 minutes shortly after 1 p.m."

AP: "California's attorney general sued one of the nation's largest banks Thursday, alleging that JPMorgan Chase & Co. used illegal tactics in its debt collection efforts against about 100,000 credit card holders. The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court says the company filed thousands of debt collection lawsuits each month between 2008 and April 2011 using improper practices that shortcut procedures required by California law." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "... new accounts out of Kizlyar, [Russia,] where [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev spent time with a cousin who is a prominent Salafi Islamist leader, have begun to flesh out a picture of what he did during his six months in Russia last year."

New York Times: "A judge ordered the man accused in the kidnapping of three women and a young child to be held on $8 million bail, $2 million for each case, on Thursday morning. The man, Ariel Castro, 52, appeared in court for the first time since his arrest during an arraignment hearing in municipal court in Cleveland. Mr. Castro did not speak and kept his head down and his eyes lowered during the proceedings."

** Los Angeles Times (via the Chicago Tribune): "Five days before two bombs tore through crowds at the Boston Marathon, an intelligence report identified the finish line of the race as an 'area of increased vulnerability' and warned Boston police that extremists may use 'small scale bombings' to attack spectators and runners at the event."

AP: "Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in an undisclosed location outside the city of Worcester, police said Thursday after a frustrating weeklong search for a community willing to take the body."

New York Times: "Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday, according to media reports, throwing an already violence-ridden election campaign into more tumult."

Reuters: " The head of the Arab League on Thursday welcomed a new effort by Russia and the United States to seek a negotiated end to Syria's civil war and called on the Syrian government and opposition to participate."

AP: " A fire at a sweater manufacturer killed eight people -- including a senior police officer, a Bangladeshi politician and a top clothing industry official -- barely two weeks after the collapse of a building housing other garment factories where the death toll approached 1,000 on Thursday. Unlike the collapse at the Rana Plaza building, which was blamed on shoddy construction and disregard for safety regulations, the Tung Hai Sweater factory appeared to have conformed to building codes."

Reuters: " The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell last week to its lowest level in nearly 5-1/2 years, signaling labor market resilience in the face of fiscal austerity."

Cyber-Heist! Reuters: "The U.S. government charged eight individuals with stealing debit card data from two Middle Eastern banks in a scheme that prosecutors said netted $45 million in a matter of hours - a crime they called one of the biggest bank heists in history. A New York-based group hacked into credit card processors' computers to steal Mastercard Inc debit card data, which they used to make approximately 36,000 transactions over a total of 10 hours in 24 countries, the Justice Department said."

AP: "The Statue of Liberty is reopening July 4 after Superstorm Sandy flooded the island where it stands. The statue has been closed since Sandy struck the region on Oct. 29 and damaged much of Liberty Island's infrastructure. The statue itself is on higher ground and was not damaged."


The Commentariat -- May 8, 2013

Thomas Ferraro & Richard Cowan of Reuters: "U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on Tuesday proposed a gay rights amendment to the Senate's immigration bill, prompting one of the measure's Republican sponsors to repeat his prediction that it could sink the legislation. 'It'll kill the bill,' Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a brief interview. 'There is a coalition of groups who are supporting immigration reform who will not support it if that's in there.'"

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.... The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III..., since 2010 has pushed for a legal mandate requiring companies like Facebook and Google to build into their instant-messaging and other such systems a capacity to comply with wiretap orders."

Mark Landler & David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Obama offered an endorsement Tuesday of South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, and her blueprint for defusing tensions with North Korea, but warned that the first move was up to the erratic, often belligerent young leader in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un." ...

... Here's video of the news conference, where Obama also discussed sexual assault in the military, among other topics, in answer to reporters' questions:

Craig Wheeler of the Washington Post: "The estimated number of military personnel victimized by sexual assault and related crimes has surged by about 35 percent over the past two years, the Pentagon reported Tuesday, as the White House and lawmakers expressed anger with the military's handling of the problem. The sobering statistics, along with several recent sexual-abuse scandals in the armed services, prompted President Obama to bluntly warn the Defense Department that he expected its leaders to take tougher action against sex offenders and redouble their efforts to prevent such crimes. 'The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,' Obama told reporters. 'If we find out somebody's engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged -- period.'" ...

... New York Times Editors: "The most promising proposal [to rectify the military's appalling mishandling of sexual assault cases] comes from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. She plans to introduce legislation next week that ... would replace the current system of adjudicating sexual assault by taking the cases outside a victim's chain of command. It would end the power of senior officers with no legal training but lots of conflicts of interest to decide whether courts-martial can be brought against subordinates and to toss out a jury verdict once it is rendered. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel favors eliminating the power of senior officers to overturn jury findings in the most serious cases, but, so far, he has not endorsed the Gillibrand bill, which would move the authority both to investigate and prosecute offenses to impartial military prosecutors. His reluctance is troubling. It is his job to fix the situation. Halfway reform won’t do." The editors suggest presidential leadership is needed. CW: here, they're right. ...

... ** Blame the Victim, Ctd. Maureen Dowd Redeems Herself (Again): Air Force sexual assault prevention program top gun Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski's arrest on sexual assault charges (for an incident occurring just after he had completed his sexual assault victim training) "was a fox-in-the-henhouse echo of Clarence Thomas, who Anita Hill said sexually harassed her when he was the nation’s top enforcer of laws against workplace sexual harassment." Senators "just didn't get it" then, & 22 years later, military brass still "don't get it." "Gen. Mark Welsh, the chief of staff for the Air Force, shocked the women on the Senate Armed Services Committee when he testified that part of the problem ... is that young women who enter the military have been raised in a society with a 'hook-up mentality.' ... The Senate looks very different than it did during the Thomas-Hill hearings. Three of the six Senate Armed Services subcommittees are now led by women."

You're disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor... that's the policy of the Obama administration? -- District Judge Edward Korman, to Obama administration lawyers ...

... Hizzonor Is Not Amused. Reuters (via the New York Times): "A federal judge on Tuesday criticized the Food and Drug Administration over its refusal to make emergency contraception available to girls of all ages without a prescription, saying the agency's move to restrict distribution to those 15 and older was not realistic. Judge Edward R. Korman of the Eastern District of New York, who last month ordered the agency to lift age restrictions on the morning-after pill, said at a hearing in Brooklyn that he would rule this week on its request to stay the order. The F.D.A. has appealed the ruling, and said it would allow girls as young as 15 to buy the pill without a prescription. Judge Korman called the decision 'a lot of nonsense' and questioned its timing, made one day before the F.D.A. filed its notice of appeal." (Korman is a Reagan appointee!) ...

... ** Irin Carmon of Salon has a great report on the hearing. Here's a sample: "Korman repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel's every other sentence with assertions like, 'You're just playing games here,' 'You're making an intellectually dishonest argument,' 'You're basically lying,' 'This whole thing is a charade,' 'I'm entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?' and 'Contrary to the baloney you were giving me....' He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the 'suppression of the rights of women' with the ID requirement for the drug."

AP: "One of the CIA's highest-ranking women, who once ran a CIA prison in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, has been bypassed for the agency's top spy job.... She also ... helped ... the CIA destroy its waterboarding videos. The officer, who remains undercover, was a finalist for the job and would have become the first female chief of clandestine operations.... Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, has criticized the interrogation program and personally urged CIA Director John Brennan not to promote the woman, according to a former senior intelligence official briefed on the call.... CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the assertion that the officer was passed over because of her involvement in the interrogation program was 'absolutely not true.'" CW: So, um, waterboarding & destroying evidence is not a career-buster. But, hey, it doesn't guarantee a promotion, either. Great.

** Jeet Heer writes a brilliant piece (IMHO) in the American Prospect on the relationship between sex & economics. Akhilleus, this is a reading assignment for you. ...

... BTW, the Ferguson Apologetic Moment is so over: "What the self-appointed speech police of the blogosphere forget is that to err occasionally is an integral part of the learning process. And one of the things I learnt from my stupidity last week is that those who seek to demonize error, rather than forgive it, are among the most insidious enemies of academic freedom." Shorter Ferguson: "I must criticize you, but you cannot criticize me." Shorter yet: "I am an accredited sociopath."

So, Penmanship. Martin Crutsinger of the AP: " Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew may not have succeeded yet in getting a grand budget bargain with Congress, but at least his handwriting is improving. And it is expected to be even better when the time comes for him to affix his 'Jacob Lew' to the nation's currency."


Congressional Races

Greg Sargent takes a look at the Massachusetts race to fill John Kerry's Senate seat. Big surprise: the Republican candidate, Gabriel Gomez, is a thoughtless, inarticulate dope. But he could beat Democrat Ed Markey.

Rick Klein, et al., of ABC News: The Koch-backed astroturf Tea Party organization FreedomWorks threatens primary challenges against Sen. Lindsey Graham & any other Members of Congress who occasionally accidentally attempt to do their jobs.

Local News

NEW. I missed this ... Danielle Dreilinger of the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the current method of funding the statewide school voucher program is unconstitutional. Act 2, part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's 2012 package of education reforms, diverts money from each student's per-pupil allocation to cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition. ...

... BUT Charles Pierce didn't. "You can't use public money to support religious schools. Period. It is the most preposterously obvious violation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment this side of the outright attempt by the newly insane state of North Carolina to establish Christianity as an official religion."

Doug Denison of the Delaware News Journal: "Delaware became the 11th state today to legalize same-sex marriage after a lengthy debate in the state Senate and the surprise votes of two lawmakers who could have tipped the tally the other way. A half-hour after the 12-9 Senate vote, Gov. Jack Markell signed the legislation into law on the main stairs in the lobby of Legislative Hall."

Judith Dianis, co-director of the civil rights Advancement Project, writes a letter to the New York Times saying the Florida legislature's "election reform" bill "falls woefully short of achieving the kind of election reform that Florida citizens need." As Dianis noted, the Times story on the bill, linked here May 4, "paints a sunny picture" of the bill.

News Ledes

New York Times: "... investigators are looking into a range of suspected contacts [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev made in Dagestan, from days he might have spent in a mosque in Makhachkala, the capital, to time spent outside the city with a relative who is a prominent Islamist leader recently taken into custody by Russian authorities."

AP: " The Obama administration is providing $100 million in new Syria aid, U.S. officials said Wednesday, but the money is for humanitarian purposes only and not linked to any decision on arming Syrian rebels. The announcement will be made by Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday in Rome...."

AP: "Kidnapping and rape charges were filed Wednesday against a man arrested after three women missing for about a decade were found alive at his home. Homeowner Ariel Castro was charged while his brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, were held but faced no immediate charges."

AP: "The Air Force stripped an unprecedented 17 officers of their authority to control -- and, if necessary, launch -- nuclear missiles after a string of unpublicized failings, including a remarkably dim review of their unit's launch skills. The group's deputy commander said it is suffering 'rot' within its ranks. 'We are, in fact, in a crisis right now,' the commander, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, wrote in an internal email obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by the Air Force."

AP: "The vast majority of the $1 million reward offered in the manhunt for rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner will go to a couple who he tied up in their Big Bear cabin, police said Tuesday.... [A panel of judges] decided that about $800,000 will go to James and Karen Reynolds. Daniel McGowan, who found Dorner's burning truck in the Big Bear area where he eventually was discovered, will get $150,000, and $50,000 will go to tow truck driver R.L. McDaniel, who reported spotting Dorner at a gas station earlier in the manhunt."

Reuters: Russian "President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia must strengthen its defenses in the south and work with Central Asian allies to protect itself against the threat of extremist violence emerging from Afghanistan."